I’ve been learning from you this month. The first thing I learned was right at the beginning, right after the last time I wrote to you. We had a particularly bad morning in church, I mean you literally lay down defiantly on the floor by the altar on our way back from the children’s sermon, requiring me to bend down and pick you up, while also holding Meredith, and carry you right out of church. I banished you to the nursery, deciding to try out a new strategy: “If you won’t do a good job, you don’t get to stay and worship Jesus with us.” This resolve lasted about the hour it took me to get my head screwed back on straight. The reality is, it wouldn’t communicate to you anyway, since you are still so young, and so engaged in whatever any moment has to offer. (“Toys in the nursery? Cool.”) And yet you love to worship with us and you know it’s a big deal. But that morning it took me a while to calm down from my frustration with your outright defiance.
On the car ride home, as I mostly ignored you, leaving Daddy to interact with you, I proposed to him, in my great wisdom, that perhaps the silent treatment was what you needed from me. I’d stick it to you: show you if you won’t mind me you won’t get to enjoy my company. Smart, huh? It was sometime after that gem of nurturing, motherly wisdom that it hit me as so obvious. After a moment of discipline, repentance, and reconciliation, there is no silent treatment in God’s economy. Instead, my job if I want to reflect God, is to extend cheerful fellowship to you immediately. Now, there may be extreme situations in which God gives someone over to prolonged suffering in response to their sin, but not usually. With God, restoration is complete. And He certainly doesn’t deprive us of Himself. So that’s what I’ve been trying to implement, and it is teaching me a lot about my own selfish desire to retaliate.
It hasn’t all been big and serious this month, despite the hundreds of little battles we’ve waged with each other. You just crack us up, over and over again. You say things that make Daddy and me look at each other with a twinkle in our eyes that says “Isn’t he just completely fantastic!?”
Mostly it’s the things you say. You talk constantly now, and I am enjoying it while it lasts, fully anticipating that you will retreat into your quiet shell again when the novelty of language wears off. For now, it is just too much fun to listen to your constant commentary. In the car it’s the best. You meticulously name each truck that passes us: “Red truck!” “Green truck!” “Gray tanker truck!” “Car carrier with car on top!” You identify other things, too, and what’s most darling is that you’ve begun turning things into full sentences. You used to have this mushy little word that we knew to mean “Water tower.” Now you say, distinctly, “I see a water tower!”
You’ve been more and more verbal in our singing, too. Recently at church we sang Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven and on Saturday night we sang it at home until you learned to sing “Alleluia! Alleluia!” You were so excited to sing it in church the next morning. Then the week after that we sang Come, Christians, Join to Sing and you haven’t stopped with the “Alleluia, Amen”s since, though often what comes out is a melding of the two tunes and the words “Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen!” You also like to sing The Wheels on the Bus, especially when you are a prisoner in your car seat, and you sing all the words perfectly. Finally, there’s the ABC song. Often you go up to the piano and start poking at random notes with your finger, accompanying yourself as you sing the whole ABC song. I am pretty sure what you are recalling is Daddy’s teaching you that all the notes on the piano have letter names.
You are loving letters, and I’m excited for the wooden ABC building blocks I am about to put under the Christmas tree. You like to work on letters at my desk, do the ABC puzzle, or, most recently, write letters on my phone (text messages) to Nana, Papa, and the Puppies. I think you’re going to be an early reader, because each morning when you get the Big Picture Story Bible off the shelf and bring it to the couch you start by pointing to each letter on the cover. You know how to identify B, I, P, T, C, and R with pretty impressive consistency.
You’ve given us a few good laughs with your comments recently, like this morning when I overheard Daddy asking you who you read about for the advent tree last night. You replied “Adam and Eve disobeyed a snake.” Or a few minutes later when I saw you and said you were growing so big. You responded “I grow big I can reach Daddy’s organ pedals.” That’s what every boy aspires to, for sure…
We’ve been watching the classic Winnie the Pooh movie on Netflix recently, and we had it playing at Auntie Kilby’s house before we drove home from Thanksgiving. We were in the car a few hours later and you asked “What’s wrong with my ear?” After several repetitions it registered that you were complaining of discomfort, so I turned to investigate. “What’s wrong with your ear, buddy?” “I have bumbleebees in my ear?” Um, I doubt it.
It was delightful experiencing Thanksgiving through your eyes. Cranberry sauce, in your mind, is bliss. And you were pretty excited about the turkey, too. You were watching as I prepared it on the pan and at one point I commented aloud to no one and everyone, “That is one large animal.” For the rest of the day you referred to the turkey as a “large animal.” It was so much fun watching your eyes practically boggling out of your head at all the beauty on that day, especially when you’d spy the dessert or when Auntie Kilby gave you the beaters to lick after whipping the cream. You got into the spirit of the day and at the dinner table you even proposed your very own toast, raising your little cup and saying “Cheers” because that’s how you’ve seen Mommy & Daddy do it. When we asked you what you were thankful for you went on your usual litany about “Papa, Nana, Puppies…” It’s always followed by a million other things, but it always starts there. (Never were puppies held in higher esteem, I swear.)
We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear at Auntie Kilby’s house at least twenty times, and by the end you were reading it for yourself. We’d read it together and you’d burst out with glee, “I see a yellow duck lookin’ at me!” I just start laughing every time I remember the sound of those words in your little baby mouth.
The biggest problem we’re having with your language is your new default response to anything that you don’t like, and it’s not a very nuanced one. “I not like baby!” is something we hear many times a day. It used to be more specific, like “I not like baby screaming upstairs!” but not you’ve truncated it, and over and over again you make the announcement. You’ve also made other things objects of your disgust, most memorable of which was the other day when I was correcting you for something. You interrupted me, “I not like Mommy talking to me!” Little by little you are learning that to say “I not like” somebody is selfish and rude, and therefore not acceptable.
The last thing I wanted to include here is another one of your stock phrases. It used to be more of a statement of satisfaction and self-congratulation: “I know how…” You say it about everything. But in the last few days it’s becoming a statement of defiance at the world – determination against evidence to the contrary. These days I am usually right to infer that when I hear you say “I know how” it means you actually don’t. I was thinking about that this morning, momentarily supposing I might teach you that when you can’t do something you should ask for help, that it wasn’t entirely accurate to say “I know how.” But then I changed my mind and decided to take you for what I know you mean. What you mean is, “I want to know how. I am going to know how. Please teach me to know how.” And this is more of what I meant at the beginning when I said you were teaching me things this month.
I love you.